King Henry VIII

King Henry VIIIProfile

King of England. The second son of Henry VII, he was intended in his youth for the Church; he married Catherine of Aragon, his brother Arthur’s widow in 1509 after obtaining the requisite dispensation. He succeeded to the throne in 1509. Intelligent, devoted to letters and skilled in sport, he was intensely popular. With the aid of Cardinal Wolsey he made England a European power, strengthened his position at home, and remained on excellent terms with Rome. His work against Luther, in defense of the Seven Sacraments, the Mass, and papal supremacy, won for him the title “Defender of the Faith,” conferred by Pope Leo X. His life, however, had not been stainless ; he had immoral relations with Elizabeth Blount and Mary Boleyn. About 1521 he conceived a violent passion for Mary’s sister, Anne, and having only a daughter (later Queen Mary) by Catherine, he endeavored to procure a divorce on the grounds of nullity. When he failed to obtain it through Wolsey, the cardinal fell into disgrace and was replaced by Thomas Cranmer. In January 1533, to anticipate the birth of Anne’s child, the future Queen Elizabeth, he went through a form of marriage with Anne; in May, Cranmer declared the marriage valid, and Elizabeth was born in September 1533. In 1534 the breach with Rome was complete, and Henry was declared Supreme Head of the Church of England. Thomas Cromwell, Cranmer‘s abettor, who had first suggested this step, inaugurated a reign of terror; priests and nuns were put to death, over 8,000 religious were expelled from their homes, more than 200 monasteries and churches confiscated and plundered under grossly exaggerated accusations of monastic immorality. Protestants, too, were sent to the stake, for Henry, schismatical rather than heretical, insisted on the recognition of the ancient sacramental system. Anne Boleyn fell into disfavor and was executed; Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour, mother of King Edward VI, died naturally; Cromwell procured him a fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, who, proving uncomely, was divorced, and Cromwell was executed; the fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was executed on an accusation of infidelity, being succeeded by Catherine Parr, who survived Henry. The last 15 years of his reign contain hardly a feature not exciting repulsion; Henry was to the end cruel and inconsistent, one of his final acts being to suppress chantries, which, however, he virtually reestablished for his own interest by making testamentary provision to have Masses said for the repose of his soul.



Martyred by Henry VIII

MLA Citation

  • “King Henry VIII”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 30 September 2012. Web. 2 December 2021. <>